With just under two weeks to go until the NFL draft, the New England Patriots have three quarterbacks under contract: last year’s starter Cam Newton is joined by third-year backup Jarrett Stidham and former practice squad QB Jake Dolegala. What the Patriots do not have, however, is an obvious long-term solution at the most important position on the field.
The team is therefore very much in the market for a new passer when the draft gets kicked off. The question is whether or not said quarterback will be brought aboard in the first round, or with a later selection. If the Patriots go down route number two, Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond might be a viable mid-round option — one that has apparently been in touch with the team throughout the pre-draft process.
Name: Kellen Mond
School: Texas A&M (Senior)
Opening day age: 22
2020 stats: 10 games (10 starts); 188-for-297 (63.3%), 2,282 yards, 19 touchdowns, 3 interceptions: 74 carries, 294 rushing yards, 4 rushing touchdowns
Size: 6025, 211 lbs, 79 7/8 wingspan, 33 1/2 arm, 9 3/8 hand
Workout numbers: 4.61 40-yard dash
Expected round: 3rd-4th
Patriots pre-draft meeting: Senior Bowl
Strengths: Through his four years at Texas A&M, Mond did not just gain some valuable starting experience and show the desired durability — he started 44 of his 47 career games while playing in a pro-style scheme against SEC competition — but also got better with every game. His growth has not just manifested itself in his statistical output but also in his improved overall play and progressing skills.
Mond’s big arm and ability to drive the ball down the field has always been impressive, but he also showed that he can go through his progressions, handle pressure and manipulate defenders with his eyes. A good anticipatory thrower, he is playing off a solid platform that allows him to throw some of the better deep balls in this year’s class and also make plays when forced off his spot or to let the ball go without a clean platform.
His arm does not just have the necessary strength to distribute the ball all over the field, but he also showed the touch and precision needed to become a successful passer at the next level. On top of that, he offers a strong athletic foundation to work with. While not to be confused with other top-tier dual-threat quarterbacks such as Trey Lance, he has scored 22 rushing touchdowns through his career and gained 1,608 yards on the ground.
Weaknesses: While Mond did post some solid numbers in his four years as an Aggie, he also had his fair share of issues mostly tied to his decision making. He oftentimes seemed to stare down his targets and was slow to react when plays started to break down around him, leading to inaccuracies and sloppy attempts. He also threw some high-risk passes in order to make something out of nothing, and appeared much more confident targeting the middle of the field rather than going outside the numbers.
His touchdown-interception rate (71:27) is impressive, it is not fully reflective of his come-and-go accuracy or ability to make “wow” plays. In general, his ceiling can be questioned as well: Mond put up some solid numbers in college, but will he be able to take the next step in his development at the pro level or never progress beyond backup status? In order to find success in the NFL he also will have to learn to get rid of the ball faster than he did at Texas A&M; at times he took forever to get rid of the ball, increasing the fumble risk.
His athleticism is a nice tool and can be taken advantage of when used in the right system, but he will not be confused with the Cam Newtons of the world: he is a fine athlete with the ball in his hands, capable of escaping the pocket, but he won’t run over defenders or break many tackle attempts. He also was primarily used as a shotgun passer and will need to learn to take snaps from under center. Mond also had some big losses on his résumé when the team relied on his right arm to get the job done.
Why the Patriots? As Robert Kraft himself pointed out earlier this month, the Patriots need to find a long-term solution at quarterback position. However, they might not be willing to invest the resources necessary to get one of the top-tier guys on board. Mond, on the other hand, would be a solid developmental option in the middle rounds. He also has plenty of the tools New England wants its quarterbacks; if the club can feel confident that his inconsistencies can be improved at the next level, he might very well be a target as early as Day 2.
Why not the Patriots? New England was uncharacteristically aggressive in free agency, and could now look to cap its offseason by bringing in one of the top-five quarterbacks in this year’s class. If that happens, it seems unlikely the Patriots will invest in another passer in one of the middle rounds. On top of that, there are the questions surrounding Mond’s projection as an NFL-level QB — questions that could very well lead to the team look in another direction even if it does not spend a first-round pick on a passer.
What would be his role in New England in 2021? With Cam Newton getting re-signed before the start of free agency, any quarterback brought aboard would be given time behind him and possibly Jarrett Stidham to learn the playbook and get ready to take over as the potential starter further down the stretch. Mond would therefore be projected to either serve as QB2 or QB3, depending on how Newton and especially Stidham perform over the summer.
What would be his role in New England beyond 2021? While the Patriots’ long-term outlook at quarterback would remain somewhat unclear even with Mond added to the mix as a third- or fourth-round selection, the youngster would ideally be in a position to compete for the starting role in 2022. At the very least, he should be able to establish himself as the primary backup behind whoever takes the QB1 role following the upcoming season.
Does he have positional versatility? The quarterback position is by definition not a necessarily versatile one, but Mond does have some solid athletic skills to work with. While not as imposing an athlete as Cam Newton, for example, he can serve as a dual-threat passer at the next level if he takes the necessary steps in his development.
What is his special teams value? As is the case with every other quarterback, Mond’s special teams value is quasi non-existent. He could serve as an emergency holder on field goal and extra point tries in case punter Jake Bailey is unavailable for one reason or another, but nothing more should be expected out of him in the game’s third phase.
Which current Patriots will he have to beat out? Mond is projected to come off the board in either the third or fourth round and based on precedent would therefore be a lock to make New England’s roster this year. With no quarterback currently locked into a specific spot on the depth chart, everything seems to be on the table. Realistically, however, he would go up against Jarrett Stidham and Jake Dolegala for the primary backup role behind Cam Newton.
Verdict: Mond is a work in progress, but he does check plenty of the Patriots’ boxes: he is coming from a pro-style system, has played plenty of football against high-quality competition, and steadily improved throughout his college career while bringing a solid technical foundation to the table. His ceiling might be below that of other potential dual-threat quarterbacks, but he has some solid tools to work with and might present good value for New England on the second or early third day of the draft — if only to push Stidham and Dolegala from the developmental backup position.